The Paladin. To many roleplaying groups, this character doesn’t even have a name; he, or she, is simply “The Paladin,” as if there is no point in further description or that word is enough to convey the entire personality of an individual. The character’s backstory is irrelevant, the paladin’s physical features are fluff, and the player playing the paladin is subconsciously pigeonholed by friends into the role of ruining the in-character fun of everyone at the table.
I aim to change that.
First, I have to ask: What is a paladin? The shortest answer is “a holy knight.” This probably evokes an image of someone you might see sitting at King Arthur’s Round Table, but in fantasy literature, a paladin is always a warrior in the service of a god; paladins devote their entire lives to the tenets and faith of a god, and in turn that god grants them supernatural powers. Paladins can cast spells granted by a deity, and to sense and smite enemies of their faith. In the standard paladin, this means “evil” creatures.
This brings us around to the logical question here: If a paladin gets power from serving a deity, why are the good gods the only ones who grant these powers to their servants? Evil deities have priests, neutral deities have priests; why can’t they also have paladins? Why wouldn’t they have paladins? If a paladin is the ultimate expression of a warrior’s service to their god, it makes sense that every god should want a handful of these folk to call on when things get hairy.
So far, we a case for why paladins shouldn’t be confined only to a good alignment. But what about the lawful/chaotic axis?
The same argument applies. A chaotic good deity wants somebody in their corner, but why would a chaotic god want a stuffy, lawful servant? For that matter, why would someone who’s so concerned with rules and laws want to serve someone who isn’t concerned with such things at all?
The more learned and astute readers are probably pointing out there’s already a paladin archetype that breaks from the standard knight-in-shining-armor stereotype. Yes, there is the “antipaladin” but everything about it seems just as limiting as the standard paladin—a photo negative of something without room to stretch your roleplaying muscles is still just as limiting, just with a different color palette. I’ve thought about this extensively, and I’m going to provide some new rules and archetypes for the paladin for use in your Pathfinder game. These rules allow a player to fit the general attitude of the party instead of applying a forced set of morals, as well as play a paladin that doesn’t have to conform to the same stereotypical mold.
In my next post I will begin with a simple change: the Paladin of Order, the lawful neutral paladin.